Showing posts with label testimony. Show all posts
Showing posts with label testimony. Show all posts

Thursday

Testimony: Date Nights

Early in our marriage, we realized that marriage is work. If our marriage was going to be as good as we knew it could be, as we hoped it would be, we knew that it would take work. We needed to invest in our marriage: in the relationship.

So very early on, even before we had children, we started the practice of weekly date nights. We set aside one evening a week for a single purpose: strengthening our relationship, investing in our marriage.

We only had a couple of rules.

• Dinner together was a given; all else was negotiable. Sometimes we went and did a thing together, maybe a museum or a garden or a movie or play volleyball. Sometimes we’d buy a big basket at the grocery store, fill it with all sorts of good food, leave it on someone’s doorstep, ring the bell and run like the wind. Whatever we did, we did it together, and we enjoyed being together in it.  

• “Business” conversations were off limits. No making plans, discussing money, solving problems. Dreaming together was good, but not the work of making things happen. This was an investment in our future together, not fixing problems behind us. We had six other days in the week to work on those.

• We did not share our date night with anybody else unless both of us were completely on-board with the idea. Double dates were rare. Less rare was us showing up with a fancy frozen treat from the local dessert shop and knocking on a friend’s door: “We wondered if you could help us? This is too much for just the two of us. Can you help us with it?” Laughter was frequent.

When we started having kids, the subject (and cost) of babysitters came in to play and date nights became even more important. We preferred long-term relationships, so we tried to hire sitters by the quarter. “Yes, we’d like you to babysit our kids every Monday evening for the entire school year, please.” We declined to negotiate the rates down because of the long-term commitment.

Like everyone else, we went through seasons. We’d promised, among other things, “…for richer or poorer…” and we had both of those seasons. So sometimes our dates were at the local hospital cafeteria, or a bagel and a brick of Philadelphia cream cheese at the grocery store, or take a sandwich and go for a walk by the lake, but skipping a date night wasn’t an option.

The hardest year was probably when we were part of a poorly-planned church-planting team in another nation. We were a year into that experiment when I lost my job, so there we were: locked into what we considered an expensive lease on our home, not just unemployed but completely unemployable because of international law, and increasingly depressed at what we saw (what I saw) as failure all around us. We were broke!

We were facing the possibility of having to forego our date nights. Ouch.


In our work with the church, were trying to get a youth group going for the teenagers, and we were talking with the kids about what night of the week to try to do something. Several folks had several ideas, like humans do.

“Not Monday nights!” one of the girls said. “Oh, why not Mondays?” I asked. “Because Mondays is when I’m coming over to your house to babysit so you can have your date night!”

I gasped. I didn’t know that they even knew our situation. We started to argue, when her (single) mom came over and backed her up. “We’ve talked about this, and her mind is set, and I don’t suggest you try to change it. She’s as stubborn as I am.”

She went on to explain that they’d watched our relationship, and even though we’d never talked about it, our young family had been teaching them how to do relationships, just by being us. They wanted to give something back for all that we had (unknowingly) given to them.

So for the next year, this young lady came to our house after school. After dinner, she and the kids would get down to the serious business of playing, while my Lady and I headed out the door for a walk or an ice cream cone or something quiet together.

That was one of the most intense years of our lives (we had kind of a lot going on, doncha know); she may have saved our lives.

But God. God knew. Jesus understood something of what it takes to make a successful marriage with His own bride. Father understood how much work fathering actually is. And I think Holy Spirit just wanted to love on our kids and us.

At the end of that year, very large amounts of raw sewage hit the ventilating device, and we left with our proverbial tail between our legs. That experiment had cost us everything, every dime we had, every relationship but our marriage, and except for this one miracle teenager, it might have taken that too.

A decade or more later, completely out of the blue, back in America again and just beginning to get back on our feet, we answered a soft knock at the front door. Here she was again, now a happily married woman, introducing us to this strong man she had fallen in love with. The look in her eyes when she whispered “my husband” was golden. They had just stopped by to thank us for investing in them all those years ago.

We wept. Maybe it wasn’t all wasted effort after all.

God is SO good. Don’t let anyone ever tell you otherwise.




Saturday

Testimony: The Covid “Vaccine”

A Little background:

 
• The Covid 19 virus is a real virus. People are dying from it.

• But the virus is being blown way the heck out of proportion, and most of the deaths attributed to Covid are actually people who had the virus dying from something else. (CDC has acknowledged it..)

• A fair number of people are scared silly of the virus. (This is not a time for judging.)

• There are a few vaccines for the virus. Except that they’re not vaccines, they’re “experimental therapies.”

• A fair number of people are scared silly of the vaccines/experimental therapies. (This is not a time for judging.)

• The federal government and a good number of state and local governments are working overtime to convince us that we need to get the vaccines/experimental therapies. (Ironically, as I’m writing this, I’m getting text and email notifications working to persuade me to get the treatment.)

• The attempts to manipulate/convince the public are primarily based on either bribes or threats; they are mostly not based on logic, research, or science.

• It’s pretty well documented that the medical community has opportunity to make a lot of money from the government for promoting the Covid “vaccine,” for treating Covid symptoms, for reporting Covid deaths. (NB: It’s my policy to place a lower value on the opinions of people who are being well paid to have and to convince me those opinions.)

• A fair number of people are scared silly of the government’s intentions. (This is not a time for judging.)

• The Bible is pretty clear: we don’t actually have reason to be afraid, and in fact we are commanded to not fear.

• A fair number of people are afraid to trust God when our health, our life or our government is on the line. (This is not a time for judging.)

OK. That’s the background. (Note that I’m not interested in arguing about these points. If you feel that urge to fuss about these, go somewhere else to do it.)

TESTIMONY. This is my own story; fair warning: it might be long and rambling.

I’m a fairly strong, fairly healthy adult male with a solid immune system. I’m not actually afraid of the virus. I’ve walked with Jesus long enough to know that he’s serious about his ability to take care of me, and I know that it’s true that “whether I live or I die, I am the Lord’s.”


I’ve heard first hand reports from medical professionals, from people who have taken the vaccine; I’ve read the manufacturers’ statements about them (and their disclaimers of any liability for their product).


Based on what I’ve read (and I’ve read the original CDC & other reports, not just the news reports about them), I don’t see any reason why I personally need to take the vaccine/experimental therapy that they’re so aggressively promoting. I don’t judge those who take it, but I am comfortable concluding that it’s not for me.

But there are people around me who are scared of the virus, some more than others, of course. Many of these are MY people, people I would die for, people who would die for me: people I love.

These people are scared for me, and they believe they have reason. They consider me higher risk for more than one reason, and the reports agree with them. Some of these people trust the vaccine/experimental therapy, and they want me to “protect myself” and take it. Some of them want me to take it as protection for themselves. (This is not a time for judging.)

So this put me in a tough place. I was confident that I didn’t need the vaccine/experimental therapy, and that in fact, I would be wise to avoid it.

But people who love me were paying a price for my choice. That wasn’t comfortable for me. There were people, people I love and whom I love to be around, that weren’t comfortable being around me. That’s not comfortable for me.

That’s been a hard place. And when I find myself in hard places like that, I try to remember to take these to my Father, so I brought this awkward, confusing, emotionally-charged mess that was in my heart to him. He listened quietly for a while (or at least I assumed he was listening, but he sure was quiet). I poured out my concerns and confusions to him. I wasn’t OK with this divided heart thing going on.

We spent a while here, days, maybe weeks, not minutes or hours. But eventually, his peace did what it does, and it settled my thoughts and emotions and drew my attention back to my Father’s goodness where it belongs.

And in that process, he drew my attention to Mark’s version of the Great Commission, and to one clause in particular: “If they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them.” He wasn’t giving me a direction in the midst of the options, he was just reminding me: “This is the way I am with you, Son.”

As I kept praying (I cannot tell you how many times I’ve stopped listening too early!), I felt his affirmation that I could trust him, I could trust this promise, whichever way I chose to go, but this was my choice to make; he wasn’t going to make my choices for me here.

I still believe that this virus isn’t a threat for me personally, and I still believe that I don’t need the experimental therapy that’s being promoted.

So I signed up to get the experimental therapy, confident that it will by no means hurt me. That was long enough ago that I had to work really hard to get it; it was really awkward, really uncomfortable, really irritating to jump through all the hoops. (The notifications I’m getting now announce that some places have it available for walk-ins.)

After several weeks, I made it to the front of the line and it was my turn. They had me sign a raft of papers (and were really confused when I insisted on reading what I was signing), and the nurse who gave me the injection confessed that he didn’t believe we needed “a ‘vaccine’ that is 95% effective against a disease with a 99+% survival rate.” We laughed about it together.

When it came time for the second injection, people crawled out of the woodwork to tell me their horror stories of how bad the second one was, and how dangerous it was, and how that’s where people got sick from the second one. Thanks folks!

So I reminded myself pretty aggressively of Father’s promise. “If they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them.” My version went this way: “If I am injected with anything deadly, it will by no means hurt me.” It was kind of hard work to agree with him instead of all the fear-driven testimonies.

The next morning, I woke up feeling “off,” and the doubts whispered into my ear: “See! I told you you’d get sick! Now it’s happened to you!”

So I had a conversation with my soul. “If I am injected with anything deadly, it will by no means hurt me.” I kind of had a shouting match inside my soul for a while, but eventually my soul gave in, the symptoms vanished, and I had a great day. That was a month or two ago, and I haven’t been sick for a day since.

I still shake my head (sometimes when my soul gets out of line) at how much this changes the hearts and the choices of some of the people I love, but then I remember, “I did this for you, because I love you.” I can’t generally tell them that, of course, because they think I was convinced of their opinions when I saw the error of my ways because of their insightful presentation of the media’s hysteria.

And I feel my Father’s comfortable pleasure with my choices here. It was my choice, your choice might be completely different. But this is how I dealt with it.

I hope my story is helpful to you.

Thursday

The Chef's Knee

I was raised in the church, but I was raised by a couple of left-brain, logical thinkers: by a school teacher and an engineer. They taught me math and science and the occasional Bible story, but we knew nothing of the power of God. We prayed for every meal, but it was a routine; we did it because that’s what good Christians did.

The church we were part of explained why nothing supernatural ever happened and why the miracles that the Bible talked about weren’t really what they seemed to be, and how science explained them.

Many years later, after I came to a real and personal faith and began to pursue Jesus for myself, I discovered that the gifts of the Spirit were real and that there was actual power present in them. I’ve spent the last half century pursuing knowing my loving King and learning all I can about the tools that he’s given us to run this race well.

The son of a schoolteacher doesn’t have any trouble studying the Book, and the son of the engineer has got some natural advantages applying the wisdom of that Book to his life. But power? But the supernatural? Now wait just a doggone minute here. It’s harder to overcome the natural and logical mindset that I was raised with.

Fast forward a few decades. I’ve taught hundreds, maybe thousands of people about the love of God, the gifts of the Spirit, and even about how to heal the sick. I didn’t have much personal experience actually healing the sick, and the voices from my childhood kept explaining away any healings and miracles that I did see.

So one Friday night, I’m with a team of friends hosting a large meeting, when all of a sudden, one of the group gets up and announces to the auditorium that God wants to heal everyone tonight, “If you need healing, come forward.”

I was confronted with my unbelief. So I kicked into administration mode and connected people who needed prayer with people to pray for them (“Just like we’ve talked about,” I reminded a few of them), but there were so many of them!

Among the last to arrive was the chef in charge of the kitchen at that facility, and he was bearing down on me, and he was limping. We had talked a few times; maybe I wasn’t a complete stranger. I looked around for someone with a healing gift. Not a one!

So here I was, acknowledging that God heals, but full of unbelief, and I was expected needing to heal this guy’s torn ligaments. I was doomed.


So we found a place out on the edge of the crowd where he could sit down and where I could get my hands on his knee. He explained how he needs to be on his feet all day, every day, and the stress weakened his knee, and then he stepped wrong or fell or something (I wasn’t paying as much attention to his situation as I should have been, being much more attentive to my immanent unmasking as a healing fraud).

 I laid hands on the knee, and quietly complained to Father that this wasn’t fair! He wasn’t impressed with my panic.

Eventually, my adrenaline levels dropped enough that I remembered to ask Father how to pray, and I had an impression, so I prayed in that direction. I prayed hard in that direction. I prayed every little detail I could think of in that direction, and in the direction next to it just to be safe.

Eventually I had to come up for air. “How does your knee feel? Stand up and test it.” I tried to sound confident.

He tested it, and sat back down with kind of a scowl on his face. “It feels warm inside, but I’m not sure it’s any better.”

My heart didn’t really have any further to fall, but I figured “warm” was a good sign. “OK, let’s pray some more.” It was clear he wasn’t in a hurry.

Over the course of the next hour or two, I threw every prayer I knew and six or ten that I didn’t know at his knee. I wasn’t going to fail because I’d given up: I was going to go down fighting. Every ten minutes or so, we’d check it again, and every time it was a little better. “Not a lot better, but yeah, it’s a little bit better.”

It must have been the nine thousand and twelfth time we stopped to check his progress that he bent and stretched and matter-of-factly announced, “Yeah, I think that did it!” I picked my jaw up off the floor and thanked him for his patience. We were nearly the last ones out of the room.

I had reason to return to that conference facility several times, for several different kinds of events, often including meals, and every time he saw me (he never once missed me!), he’d come out of the kitchen, wrap me in a bear hug, squat down and bounce back up and announce, “Yep! It’s still healed!” (You should have seen the looks on the faces of some of my business associates at the tech events there! I remember that feeling, when I first heard that healing really was for today.)

Healing is still not one of the primary tools that I use in the ministry Father has me involved in. And every time that I slap hands on someone for healing, hell rubs my nose in that fact. “You don’t have that gift!”

“No, but I know a Guy!” and I remind him of the chef’s knee. Shuts ‘em up every time.

It’s still a challenge, still a battle every time I go after healing, and I mean that literally: when we heal the sick, we’re conquering the works of hell (both in the natural and in the minds of those we’re healing): hell is fighting (unsuccessfully) for survival; of course there’s a battle.

And no, not everybody I pray for is healed, not by a mile or six. But I have a testimony to keep me going.

Maintaining the Garden


I had an interesting train of thought this morning in the … er… Library.

I have some plants and some starts that will go into the garden when the weather stabilizes (around here, that’s traditionally Mother’s Day). I had already brought many of those out of the greenhouse into what may actually be sunshine at some point in the day; it’s a good idea (in my view) to get plants ready for their new environment before I plant them there permanently.

I’m really looking forward to the growing season. I’ve got a fair number of plants ready to go, the garden beds are ready to go. The soil has been turned and amended with fresh compost. The weeds are gone (except for one: I want to know what it will turn into), and I know where each plant will be going. I have a few seeds in the ground (mostly salad things), and I know where more will be going.

And Father ambushed me on that topic. “You keep your garden up-to-date, don’t you?” and he reminded me how I try to keep it weed free all year, how I add plants and fertilize plants and how I water it regularly.

“Yeah, I do. It is a better garden if I take care of it.” I’ve had gardens in the past that I haven’t taken care of very well. They had been overtaken by weeds and grass and their produce was small and scarce.

Then he shifted gears on me; he reminded me of the investment I make in my marriage. “A good marriage takes the same kind of work that a good garden does, doesn’t it?” He reminded me that a marriage needs fertilizer and needs weeds removed just as much as a garden does.

I am (we are) pretty intentional about keeping the relationship healthy. We talk things out, we regularly express our love with words and touches and time together and such. We have maintained a delightful discipline of taking date nights, just for our relationship, every week (or more often) for more than 30 years.  

I reflected on the different joys that my marriage and my garden bring me.

“A relationship with me takes similar investment, you know. And it will bring you similar joy.”

He’s right, you know. (I say that kind of a lot. I’m not going to change that. He is. :) ) A relationship with another person – a marriage relationship, a friendship, a family relationship, a relationship with my creator – takes maintenance. Since we’d started with the metaphor of the garden, I’ll stick with it: it takes adding things (seeds, young plants, fertilizer, water) and taking things away (weeds, birds who want to dig up the seeds and eat the young fruits, cats who are thankful for a clean sandbox) to make the relationship thrive.

I think I’ll be meditating on this for a bit. How can I best invest into my relations with God and with the people around me? 

Transformed Thinking about Scripture

It's hard, isn't it, to let the Scriptures stand on their own, particularly when they're passages that are a little uncomfortable for us, a little unfamiliar to us, passages that don't entirely support our current beliefs.

It's hard to just listen to what the Book is saying, without filtering it through our theology and fitting it into a tidy little theological box. When a verse or story doesn't support my view, and sounds almost like it could be used to support the other view, that makes me nervous, and I feel the need to quote verses that support my view to make me feel better.

So instead of that, I'm working on learning to not filter uncomfortable, unfamiliar passages through either my theology or yours. Sorry. Nothing personal. If it's true that "All scripture is God-breathed and profitable...," (and it is) then the passages that argue against my theological boxes are God-breathed and profitable as well. I want to profit from them, too!

I suspect that this is at least part of what he means when he tells us to renew our minds [Romans 12:3, Ephesians 4:23]

To my great surprise, that state of NOT having answers is becoming more comfortable, more comforting to me. It's in THAT place where Father can whisper to me, not so much his interpretation, but his heart on the matter.

I love it when he does that. I value hearing his whisper, his breath, as far more important to me than having perfect little theological boxes.

So if you find me posting about, or musing about uncomfortable things here, you may want to skip over them, and keep your theological boxes in tidy order. Or you may want to jump in and look for what God's breathing on there.

Opinions About Pornography


OK. Let’s go step onto the scary trail. Let’s talk about pornography, and about porn addictions.

I’m going to speak about things that I have no training in. I have opinions, based on experience. I’ve not put this into words for a long time, so this may get overly-detailed (that’s how my process works).

Comment: I’ll be speaking as a guy (I generally do, but this time it may make a difference).

Another Comment: I’m not going to talk about how icky porn is. You already know that.

Warning: This isn't complete. Not sure it's actually possible to be complete on this topic. This is more of an outline, notes, rough thoughts.

Personal opinion: neither accountability nor inner healing will solve porn addictions. They may address some symptoms, but not solve the problem.

Personal opinion: solving symptoms is never a substitute for solving the core issue. If one symptom is solved, but the core issue is not, then the core issue will build pressure, and pop out in another place, or (more likely?) blow the scab off the same symptom.

Personal observation: when “church folk” respond to any addiction, their response is generally in the realm of “self control.” This does help a small number of people. 

Personal opinion: a porn addiction is not primarily about sex or about discipline. These are merely symptoms.

Personal opinion: the core issue is identity, specifically intimacy in relationship. Intimacy, in this context, is NOT a euphemism for sex: it’s about being known and accepted fully, and about knowing and accepting fully. And the first place for this intimacy is with God:

Personal opinion: if a man does not have an intimate relationship with God, if a man does not have confidence that he is fully known and fully accepted by God, then he will try to meet that very legitimate need by illegitimate means. Pornography is one of those illegitimate means.

Personal opinion: that business of being known fully and being accepted fully by one’s wife (or wife-to-be) is supplemental and very helpful, but does not replace the need for this relationship with God. Neither does sex replace real relationship with God. [That’s covered in the DUH-101 course.]

Personal opinion: This inherently creates a problem: the only solution is to know and receive the actions/choices of someone else. Fundamentally, no man can solve this problem on their own, by their own strength. There’s room for a sermon there, but this is not the time for that sermon.

Personal Opinion: the only thing that a man can do to facilitate others’ meeting of these needs is to initiate that sort of relationship. With God, that’s only about making one’s self as open as possible before God, and that is a scary process. With a bride that’s a terrifying thing, because it’s the same kind of vulnerability, but vulnerability before a fallible human being who has her own needs. Scary. But that’s all he can do to help her offer that to him: offer it to her, both for her well-being, and by way of being an example.

Personal opinion: the only things I’ve ever seen work appear to be two sides of the same coin: It can be described as “Develop this kind of relationship with God” or it can be described as “Know – really know, not just study – who you are in Christ,” but these are (IMHO) really the same thing.

Personal opinion: there is a bit of good news in an addiction to pornography: you were made for intimate relationship with God, and this addiction demonstrates that you have a real hunger, and a real readiness for that intimacy. You’re ready to develop a close relationship with your Maker. And God is ready to develop that close relationship with you.

I say again: a porn addiction is rock-solid proof that you are now ready and able to have the kind of intimate relationship with God that you’ve always wanted.

Is it scary? Hell yes!

Are we guaranteed a life of ease and no problems? You’re kidding, right?

But is it possible? abso-freakin-lutely.

And yeah, it really is the better deal! Oh my goodness, yes!

Friday

The Deception of the Finished Lesson

There’s a deception that I’ve come to … well, I don’t know that I actually “hate” it, but I sure don’t love it.

It’s a deception, an illusion, and it’s perpetrated, many times, in God’s name, and often with the best of intentions.

It’s the deception of the finished lesson.

I became aware of it while I was studying something-or-other for teaching. I felt like I was wrestling a greased pig. I cut my way through bunny trails and wild goose chases and fought off premature and inaccurate conclusions.

It was a long and arduous process.

And when I was done, I presented my results to the folks I was teaching, all tidy, all logical, all wrapped up with a nice little bow on it.

It was good teaching. And my conclusions were both accurate and relevant.

But I was uncomfortable with how tidy it was. This was not a tidy topic, and I felt that I’d done folks a disservice by hiding the blood, sweat, toil and tears that went into the process.

In actual fact, the blood, sweat, toil and tears are a legitimate part of the topic, of the conversation. Let’s be honest: outside of TV shows, there aren’t a lot of thorny questions that tidily wrap themselves up in 30 minutes, are there?

Image result for damaged packageIt seems to me that the need to make things tidy and clean and neat is not actually a benefit to American culture.

Let’s be specific. If we think that the abortion issue has a clean and simple answer, we’re not paying attention. If we think that the topic of social justice can be solved easily, we’re smoking something interesting. If we think the fear of God, or the grace of God, or the rapture, or the solution to immigration, or balancing a household budget have tidy answers, we’re not seeing the whole of the subject.

Christian platitudes are an abysmal failure. But Christian blogs and Christian books (and not-so-Christian books) that have clear-cut answers are equally deceptive.

We’ll see how I respond to this, how I deal with this in the future. As much as anyone else, I like having clear answers readily available, and I like not looking like a dork as I stumble for an answer that actually means something on a complex topic.

But we might find that not every post has a confident conclusion. I don’t know. We’ll see how this turns out.

Thursday

Reflections on Some Influencers

I was reflecting on some of the guys who have influenced my life in God over the years. None of these guys had a position of “leader,” but all three of them were competent leaders.

I knew a man who studied God, and God’s ways, for decades. He could put all kinds of letters after his name, including DMin, and PhD. He understood the Bible better than anybody else I knew at the time.

When I listened to him, I thought, “What a learned man. What a great foundation! I need a foundation like that.”

I knew another man who didn’t have a degree, but had spent a couple of under-funded decades among a people who didn’t even know who God was: teaching some, discipling a few, and desperately depending on God every day, for his meals, for his ministry, for his family’s lives.

When I listened to him, my heart melted. I prayed earnestly, “Father, I want to know you like this man knows you!”

I knew another man who came from the streets, and even that was just recently. He had not the slightest shred of education, and it showed. But he spent hours, many hours, just sitting in God’s presence, listening to his heartbeat, talking with him about what was on his heart.

When I listened to him, I realized that he had some ideas that were pretty messed up, and the first guy could help him with that. And I saw that he had some serious insecurity issues, identity issues, and the second guy could really help him with that.

But when he talked, he blew my mind. He healed the sick regularly, got words of knowledge effortlessly, and unbelievers listened carefully when he talked about his Jesus.

When I listened to him, I thought, “Father, is this really possible? Can your children walk in this kind of revelation, this kind of power, in this day and age?”

I learned some things in this reflection.

I really do love meditating on the things God has done in my world, in my life. The angel in Revelation 19 was right: the testimony of Jesus, who he is, what he's done, really is the spirit of prophecy. Mmm mmm. So good.

Different people have imparted different strengths into my life. If I only listened to people like me, I would certainly not be who I am today. Since both my wife and I like who I am today, this would be a bad thing.

Even people that make me uncomfortable can have a great impact on my life, provided I’m willing to learn. It's that "willing" part that I wrestle with sometimes.

It’s not enough to know ABOUT God. I must know God. And there’s more to know than I have any idea, even now. What a big heart!

It’s not enough to know God. I must also know ABOUT God if I aspire to trust him, to be like him. And again, there’s more to know about him than I even believe is possible.

When God invests himself into a person, he doesn’t necessarily make that person tidy, neat, clean, respectable. My ideas for what a “Good Christian” is were woefully inadequate, which means they are probably still woefully inadequate today. (Yet again I am reminded: He is NOT a tame lion.)


God Teaches a Teetotaler About Beer.

I grew up in a “dry” household. My family never drank alcohol. We didn’t vilify it, we just didn’t consider it, though occasionally at big family dinners at Grandma’s, my parents and other adults would drink something red out of goblet. They made funny faces when they drank it, so I wasn’t real eager to try it.

I grew up and learned religion. So of course, my home was a dry household. And then I worked for a pastor who never taught that alcohol was evil, but he surely acted as if it were, and expected his staff to as well. It started me thinking.

Eventually, we had children in our alcohol free home, and it was good, of course. Until God intervened.

On one of my regular retreats, on a solo camping trip, God woke me up in the middle of the night and warned me that I was failing my children. OK. he had my attention.

I crawled out of the back of the pickup where I was sleeping so I wouldn’t fall asleep in the middle of our conversation. Sure enough, the little voice, the impression in the back of my head continued:

“In a few years, your children will be entering junior high school. They won’t be out of your influence, but there will be many other influences there. Some of them, and you know what this is like, will invite them to discover beer, to discover drunkenness.”

And then he dropped the big one. “And you’ve done nothing to prepare them for that temptation.”

My heart sank. I knew he was right. But he didn’t let me sink there. After a moment or two, my mind began to fill up with perspectives and ideas and insights.

One of them caught me seriously off guard. He reminded me that I loved barbecue, but I was frustrated: a great steak was NOT complimented by a glass of milk, or by a CocaCola.

And then he tied them all together: “I want you to discover beers, good beers. I want you to find out what you like, and what you don’t. And I want you to invite your family to join you in that discovery.”

Oh my. Seriously?

But then I had visions (pictures) of what could happen. I saw better barbecues which led to better fellowship. I saw my children - my family - separating themselves from the religious spirit that accompanies many alcohol-free homes. And then I saw my son, in junior high school, being approached to step behind a barn and share a Budweiser with him, and my son responded with, “Beer? That’s not beer. That's cat piss! Let me tell you about real beer!”

Oh my. I remind you that this is in the middle of the night, in the middle of the woods. I remind you that while I had tasted beer before (and not liked it), I had never had a glass of beer. I remind you that I was really comfortable in my no-alcohol religion.

And here’s God, telling me not just to drink beer, but to become educated about beer. And God was telling me to (gasp!) give beer to my school-age children, and to (gasp!) listen to their opinions about the stuff!

That was fifteen or twenty years ago, and it has been a glorious success (as if it’s surprising that God’s plans work!). I became a far better father than I had been before! And the beer? I had no idea of the variety. I still don’t love all kinds, but there are some that are pretty good, and there are some that make a good barbecued steak into a great barbecued steak. Who knew!

Oh, and that vision about my son telling his tempter, “Beer? That's not beer!” Yeah, that happened, though it looked different than the way I imagined it. And now he brings both life and excellence into a world I'd never reach, to people for whom alcohol is pretty important.

I’m not trying to say, “You need to drink beer!” Oh heck no! Don’t do that (unless God speaks to you the way he spoke to me). My obedience included learning about beer, but others' obedience involves not drinking beer.

I’m trying to say, “It’s a really good idea to do what God says, even if it’s really weird!”

Oh, and let me add: God the Father has some really good insights about how to be an excellent parent. I encourage you to learn from his wisdom on that topic!

A Personal History with Unchurched Believers

I grew up in the church. Later, I met Jesus in another church during the Jesus People revolution. That was far more interesting than regular church!

For decades, after I’d graduated from Bible college, I got a real Bible education in a Bible-believing church. And I learned the importance of being part of a church, a local congregation. A campfire of only one log will quickly burn out; a campfire with many logs will burn long and hot: believers, I was carefully taught, belonged in the campfire with other believers, and that meant in a Sunday congregation.

Over the next few decades, as I worked as an associate pastor with several churches, and Father began giving me a heart for His children, and as I watched God’s children in churches grow up, I became more concerned for those children that didn’t have the advantage of a church family.  

I met a small number of disenfranchised believers in this season: men and women who were angry and bitter at the church, and sometimes at God, too. And I prayed more for believers who didn’t have a church to call home. I pitied them.

I remember one particular evening while I was praying for the unchurched believers. Father showed me two things about this group of people that I felt a burden for: First, there were more of them than I ever expected, and second, that he was going to do something – something that I call revival – among them. So I prayed for that revival! And I pitied them: lost sheep without a flock to call home.

I prayed for and pitied unchurched believers for years, and as I did, Father’s love for those poor people grew in my heart, fueling more prayer, and probably more pity as well.

One spring Saturday, a friend I respected held an event that I saw as a church service for people who didn’t fit in church real well. It was encouraging for several reasons, not least of which was that I wasn’t fitting real well in my own church at that time.

Unfortunately, when I returned home, I discovered I had left my jacket, with my wallet, behind, and I didn’t recognize it until I returned home, an hour’s drive away.

The next day, I brought a friend and a cell phone with me and drove back to the site of the event. It took more phone calls than I expected by finally someone was able to tell me that my jacket was probably with “Ken and Barbie,” well outside of town.  

Great. I really don’t need a Ken or a Barbie in my life right now: I don’t need pretend, doll-type people my life. It was only a Goodwill-type jacket; I considered giving it up for lost, but my wallet was in the jacket. I couldn’t give up my wallet; I guess I needed to go visit Ken and Barbie.

When I arrived at their well-worn farmhouse, I scratched my head: this wasn’t the type of house I expected for “Ken and Barbie” type people. We knocked cautiously and were greeted by one of the more un-doll-like men I’ve ever met. And I recognized as soon as we stepped inside the house that we were well and truly welcome. I described it later as a family reunion with family I didn’t know I had.

We spent four hours together with these wonderful and genuine people, hours spent sharing their hearts, our hearts, stories of our Father. I learned that Ken had been a pastor for a number of years, but made his living as a carpenter now. I realized that even though I was currently a Pastor, I wanted to be more like these people. So I asked what I always ask: “So what church are you guys part of?”

The silence was deafening as Ken and Barbie glanced at each other, and I could see the question in their eyes: “How much should we tell them?” Eventually they admitted that they hadn’t been in church for more than a decade, and they told me their story of how God led them from “churched” believers to “unchurched” believers.

Then they told me about several of the folks I’d met and appreciated the day before, including my friend the event coordinator, and how they had also made the transition from “the churched” to “the unchurched.”

I was in a conundrum: I had believed that believers ought to be part of a church, but here were a whole lot of believers that I wanted to be like, whose life I aspired to, believers who – contrary to my training and my expectations – were solid and mature, and who were pillars of strength in their families and their communities. Here were believers who did not have the “advantage” of a local congregation, who were better believers than those that I knew who had that advantage. My head was spinning.

I needed to re-examine a belief that I’d held as unquestionable, and it started me asking a lot of questions about things I’d never questioned. Let me just summarize by saying that this was an exciting season in my walk of faith, and skip to the part where God confronted me about the church I was part of, where I was the associate pastor, where I was on the worship team, and where I was one of the primary preachers on Sunday mornings.

“When are you going to stop working in another man’s field, and start working in your own?” I knew it was time to leave the church, to leave that church, and to leave the church community in my city. I questioned whether I was supposed to “plant” my own church, but realized that that was just a distraction: we were to become part of the “unchurched” community.

I had a couple of dreams in this season: one before we left, clearly describing our preparation for leaving, and the sequel, after we left, where he warned me of three things:

1)      I would be disoriented, not knowing where I was, or where to go. And
2)      I would be powerless to steer my life, anyway, even if I did have an idea about where to go. But
3)      I would be able to hear Father’s voice substantially better, now that I was outside of the busyness of church, better, perhaps, than ever before.

He was, of course, correct: these were accurate descriptions of our life. He brought some excellent fellowship into our lives, often into our living room, and nearly always centered around a meal. And I found excellent fellowship online, of all places! That one really surprised me!

Curiously, our fellowship is better now that we were “out of fellowship” with Sunday morning congregations. That one surprised me, too. We are still people with imperfections, and we are still in relationship with people with imperfections; there’s no perfection here. We still deal with misunderstandings and stuff. That’s part of life.

But our place in the Body of Christ is more of what it should always have been, now that we’re no longer part of a congregation: better friendships, less judged, more received for who we are, more free to exercise our God-given gifts. In other words: church outside of “Sunday morning church” has been a substantial improvement.

Now, let me explain: I’m not writing this in order to give you a model to follow, or a standard to measure your life by. I’m writing this only as a testimony: this is the confused and real-life experience that I had; perhaps it might encourage you wherever you are in your own walk.

And let me encourage you in this: God is very much able to take you through whatever you’re going through, and to bring you out the other side in extreme and overwhelming victory.


My Introduction to the Prophetic: A Testimony

It was the late 1980s. The prophetic movement was expanding rapidly, but, as is usual when we grow rapidly, was awkward and clumsy and bumped into a lot of things.  

I was attending a Vineyard conference in Canada. The leaders supported the prophetic movement, but didn’t want to lose our grounding in the Word of God, so the conference was on the Bible, and how the Word of God related to the prophetic. The keynote speaker was going to be Dr. Gordon Fee, the brilliant theologian, one of my favorite Bible scholars. I was looking forward to the conference, as I’d only had a small introduction to the prophetic movement, and I loved the Word of God.

The first session started, before any introductions, with some outstanding worship, and then, as was the habit in those days, a prophet stood up to minister. This was the first time I’d ever met John Paul Jackson, and I’d heard he was a pretty gifted prophet. His hair was still dark back then.

John Paul called two or three people out, and told them what was on their heart, and gave God’s insight and prophetic promises for them; judging from the tears and shocked looks, I infer that he prophesied accurately.

Then he called out a guy sitting near the front, and then he really went to town. He spoke about the man’s dreams and visions for a while, while the man nodded sagely. Then John Paul got a funny look on his face, and declared that this man, a Canadian resident, had very substantial influence in several US cities, and he named six or eight cities where that influence was particularly strong.

Then John Paul spoke of the man’s love for the Bible, and named several books in the New Testament, including First and Second Timothy, Philippians and 1 Corinthians, that were particularly meaningful to him. The man was in tears, as John Paul described how God was incredibly pleased with the man, with his life and his ministry, and how his ministry would grow substantially in the future.

John Paul prayed blessing on the man, and sat down, exhausted. Then the host of the conference stood up, and asked the man whom John Paul had been ministering to to please stand. He stood, holding a tissue to his face, and the host introduced John Paul Jackson to Gordon Fee, the keynote speaker for the conference, and he confirmed that the two did not know each other, and had never met.

He then went on to describe how Dr Fee had written commentaries on the New Testament books that John Paul had named, and how he was a member of the team that translated the NIV Bible. The American cities that John Paul had been puzzled about Dr Fee’s influence in, a few of these were cities where Dr Fee had taught, where his children now lived and pastored a church, and where individuals he had mentored were now ministering.

The host then announced a coffee break for the conference, while the keynote speaker wiped his tears and regained his composure.

A few years later, Dr. Gordon Fee was appointed the editor of the notable evangelical commentary series, the New International Commentary on the New Testament of which his commentaries on 1 Corinthians and Philippians are a part.

This was my introduction to John Paul Jackson, and my first real baptism into the reality that the prophetic gifts were more than the beginner’s toys we’d been playing with.


  


My Times with God

Sometimes it was in the morning, if I was able to drag myself out of bed. Mornings were my preference, and before too long, this confirmed night owl was up before the sunrise. Sometimes it happened before retiring for the night.

More often, I just grabbed an hour or so wherever I could. I remember many times in an abandoned church building near where I lived, at my dining room table, in an empty classroom or lunchroom or conference room or a table at the library. Often times I parked for a while in a rest stop, or some wide spot in the road between here and there.

The first thing after I sat down was usually a sigh, and I’d just sit there for a few minutes. Then I’d open my knapsack or reach to my bookshelf and pull out three things: my Bible, my journal, and a mechanical pencil.

But before I opened any of them, we’d talk. “Hi Dad. Love you! I’m looking forward to what you’re going to show me today. Help me to see, eh? Help me to recognize what you’re showing me, please. Thanks. You’re awesome!” And I’d open both books at the ribbon.

In my Bible, I was working my way through one of the books, section by section. Most translations have headings dividing up the text: I’d tackle no more than the space from one heading to the next.

In my journal, I listed the date and the passage, and then I pushed that book out of my way, and I devoted my attention to the Bible.

I read the passage through. You know the way you read a text book assignment that you don’t love? Yeah, this was not that. I read it slowly enough that my attention didn’t drift. If I could, I’d read it quietly out loud.

During this time, I turned my imagination loose to walk among these people, hear the sounds, smell the smells of the story I read. If I was in an epistle, I’d listen for the apostle’s tone of voice, and I’d imagine how the people it was addressed to felt as they read it. If I felt like it, I’d look at a few cross references, but I guarded against bunny trails.

But more than anything, I waited for the light to go on. Invariably, one verse would catch my attention, as if my Father were pointing to it, and saying, “Look here, son.” Sometimes it was just a word, or a phrase. Maybe it was a repeated word. Or an idea that never actually made it into words.

If it didn’t happen the first time, I’d go back and read it again. I’d often underline the verbs, using a set of markings I developed for myself after years of this. If there was a list of things or a progression, I’d number the points. Sometimes I circled adjectives and adverbs. Sometimes I’d ask questions, of the text, of Father, about what was going on. But everything was just keeping me involved with the text until my attention was drawn to one part.

That signal was like arriving at the X on a treasure map. It meant “Dig here.” That was the real assignment.

The first part of digging was to write – legibly – the verse that stuck out to me into my journal. And then I go to work to interact with that verse, that passage, to dig for treasure in that spot. I figure that the investment of an hour was just about right, and good success would probably show evidence of at least one full page, more or less, of reaction in my journal.

So I looked closely. My personal Bible always has cross references, but is never a “Study Bible.” I don’t want to hear what other people think. I want to discover what God thinks, and see if I can make my own thinking line up with that.

My first step was pretty often to “center myself” and to dig into that little nudge itself, the nudge that said, “Dig here.” Often, that would give me some direction for my searching or meditation.

I used different tools to dig. Sometimes I would literally outline the sentences, like in English class in high school. Sometimes, I chased down the cross references, both those in the margins and especially the ones in my own heart.

But sometimes, it was just meditating on my one verse, reflecting it, asking questions of it, that brought the reward.

For example, when reading through Mark 8, I was caught by verse 31: “And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again.

This time, I found myself outlining what I saw in that verse:

1)      What are the “many things” he would suffer? (I listed them, cross referenced to Matthew 20:19 for details.)
2)      Who rejected him? (I listed them.)
3)      He would be killed: he doesn’t say by whom.
4)      He’d rise again after 3 days.

And as I was writing the outline, I realized I was thinking most about the fact that Jesus had never discussed this before. He was only free to talk about it after verse 29: after they realized that he was, in fact, the Messiah they were looking for.

I wrote for a while on what it must have been like, knowing that this terrible stuff was coming, and not having anybody – not a single person on the planet – that he could talk to about it.

I meditated for a while on how he himself learned of it, since he had been born as a normal baby (cf Philippians 2 and Hebrews 4:14,15) and he had to learn all this stuff in his own times with Father. I reflected on what that first conversation might have been like, when Father talked about what was going to happen.

And I realized that Jesus got his direction from – more or less – from the same thing that I was doing just now.

And I was done. Either I was out of time, or “the anointing lifted,” or something else. And that’s the point: I’m not looking to write a pretty article from this (though that came from it once or twice). I’m not looking for some big and powerful conclusion.

The big conclusion isn’t the point of this. The point is that Father and I have time together in his Word. Years later, I realized that he was training me – through these times – to hear his voice, and that it was remarkably effective. But even that training wasn’t the point. The point was our time together, our relationship.

Now, why have I just told you all this? It’s because of something I heard in our time together: I had the sense that some folks are pretty well grounded in hearing Father’s voice, but others are still scratching their heads and wondering how we do that?

Father showed me that during our times together, he was teaching me how to hear him, how to hear his voice and how to recognize his voice. And it seemed to me that he was suggesting that someone might want to follow the trail that he and I cleared together.

If you want to learn how to hear Father’s voice well, this is one way to learn. It has the additional benefit of giving you a solid grounding in the Bible.

If you decide to follow this trail, you have my blessing, and more important, Father’s. May you have as much fun in your time with Father on this trail as I have! I know he’ll enjoy his time with you!




Church, Impropmptu

So the other evening, I invited a couple of guys over for an impromptu barbecue. And it turned into a glorious gathering of some of my favorite saints.

The four of us sat on the back porch, doing very un-churchy things, in the presence of God. 

What kind of un-churchy things? Well we were eating New York steak, fresh off the barbecue, for one. Some of us had a beer with the steak (a nice, black oatmeal stout, in fact!). And we were telling God stories: stories that makes God look good.

After we finished the steaks, a couple of us lit up our pipes, and we listened to the peaceful sound of the rain on the roof. 

And we shared story after story of God intervening in our lives and lives of others we knew. 

And we relaxed.

That was it. Nothing else. No signs and wonders. No offerings. No sermons (got close once, but we dodged it!). Didn’t even get out our Bibles. We just enjoyed God and each other.

I wanted to tell this story for a couple of reasons.

First, the evening really touched me pretty deeply. These are some of my favorite men, and I treasure their company. I just thought I’d share my joy with you.

Second, we sometimes still have the expectation that we need to be doing godly things to be in God’s presence. Bosh! The Incarnation put that one to death. God didn’t seem to be offended by good beer, good tobacco or even the occasional wide-eyed expletive in response to his amazing exploits.

There’s a third reason, and it may not make sense to everybody reading this, and that’s OK: In my world, there isn’t much that says “You’re off duty!” as much as an oatmeal stout and pipe full of Black Cavendish. And if we can’t be “off duty” in our Christian fellowship, then something is seriously wrong!

Yes, I’m suggesting that we put our religion away, far away, and build real relationships with real people in the real world. Those are the ones that will keep us strong in the long run.


Jesus as a Test of Questionable Doctrine

Hebrews 1:3 says, “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being....” This is just saying as a principle that which Jesus had already declared, when he stated “the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.” (John 5:19 and others)

If Jesus is the exact representation of who God is. Jesus is the best revelation we’ll ever get of who God is. It is legitimate and appropriate handling of the Bible to acknowledge that the revelation of God’s nature that Jesus provides (both through scripture and through our experience with him now, it can be asserted) is a superior revelation of God’s nature than any other revelation of God. It is superior to what angels declare, superior to supernatural experiences, superior to Old Testament prophets. Jesus is the best revelation of God’s nature that we will ever, ever have.

Therefore, when examining a doctrine or a teaching, it is Biblical and appropriate to ask, “Is this doctrine consistent with the nature of God as Jesus revealed it?”

If we are faced with a doctrine that assumes that God does this or that, or that infers that God approves this or that, then that makes a statement of the character of God. For example:

    If we believe that God creates beauty, then this infers that God affirms beauty. Is this consistent with Jesus?

    If we believe that God creates evil, then this infers that we believe that God is the source of evil. Is this consistent with how Jesus lived or what Jesus taught?

    If we believe that God is going to snatch his people out of their socks and leave the world without the people He gave the Great Commission to just as the world is entering its greatest tribulation and challenge, then this says things about God’s character: are these things consistent with the revelation of who God is as Jesus has revealed Him? Is this how Jesus has revealed that God works?

Frankly, to avoid or to diminish this test of our doctrine is to reject or diminish the authority of Scripture, because Scripture affirms that Jesus is “the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.” (Colossians 1:15)

Having established this test [“Is this teaching consistent with the character of God as revealed in Jesus”], this does not mean that we necessarily completely throw out all doctrine that fails the test. We may only need to refine our belief in that area. This may call for maturity in our doctrine.

If we conclude that the life of Jesus does not support the idea that God is the creator or source of evil, then we do not necessarily throw out any doctrine of evil, or even any doctrine that God uses evil. We may want to acknowledge that while God uses evil to bring about good (the cross may serve as an illustration), it does not therefore follow logically that God is himself the source of evil. We may need to learn that evil has another source.

Or if we conclude that the idea of God snatching his people away just before difficulty strikes is not consistent with the revelation that Jesus provides, we do not therefore need to abandon all consideration of a “Rapture.” Perhaps we just need to re-think the Rapture in terms that are more consistent with God’s character and less consistent with a spirit of fear.

Perhaps there’s real reason for the command we’ve been given: “And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” Maybe part of the reason that we need to keep our eyes on Jesus is because He is STILL the standard by which we understand what is true and what is not.



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Returning to the Glory of the First Century Church

Every so often, I hear someone moan wistfully, “If only we could return to the glory days of the first century church! If only we could be as full of faith as they were!”

I think if I hear that again, I’m going to scream.

May I speak plainly? That’s one of the stupidest spiritual-sounding things we could say in this day and age. I make the assumption that people who say that mean well, but come on! Let’s think about this a little bit:

The first century church, the church in the book of Acts, was a wonderful beginning. But they were only a beginning: this was the baby church, in diapers, as it were. I can tell you that I have no interest in going back to diapers. That would be such an epic failure, for the church of today to return to the “glory days” of the first century church! What was for them glorious success would be the worst of failures for us.

● “But,” someone will moan, “There were three thousand saved in a day!” That’s pretty good for rookies. Today, that’s less than an hour’s work in the Kingdom, and some reports suggest that’s closer to 20 minutes’ work.

Let us note that it only happened twice in the Book of Acts that three thousand were saved in a day. Today, more than three thousand people come to faith every single hour of every single day of every single year.

I’m thinking that’s an improvement.

● “But there were signs and wonders!” Somebody is seriously not paying attention. There were fewer than 20 miracles reported in the book of Acts, though there were repots of “lots of miracles.” Nowadays, we have lots of miracles on a regular basis.

I know one group that has a 100% success rate at healing the deaf, and nearly as good success healing the blind. I know two groups that won’t let people become elders unless they’ve raised someone from the dead. I know a group that legitimately calls themselves “The Dead Raising Team,” and they’re successful at it. I can’t tell you the number of successful healing teams I’ve heard about! They’re everywhere, and best of all, NOT just among the leaders, like the book of Acts.

Bethel Church in California reports thousands of documented miracles every time they send their students on outreach. And have you talked to the Healing Rooms movement recently?

Besides, I’m not sure I want more “Ananias & Sapphira events.” It’s my private opinion that even when that happened in Acts, it was an error, and not the will of God, but that’s another story. Surely it won’t be best for folks to fall dead in our meetings, when nobody can agree why it happened!

● “But they had all things in common!” I’ll grant that this is an area that we have room to continue growing in. But I am also aware that we’re talking about completely different cultures here. In that culture, if you couldn’t work, you starved to death. In our culture, the homeless guys on street corners make a (meager) living that in most of the world (or in the first century church) would be considered unmitigated wealth. (http://nwp.link/1s8woOt)

This does NOT mean that I propose that we stop helping the poor! Heaven forbid! This means I propose that we quit berating ourselves simply because we still have poor people among us: Jesus said we always would! (Matthew 26:11)

● “But they sold their homes! That’s dedication!” Well, some of them sold their homes. That was just good business; these were smart Jews! Jesus had clearly declared that the city would be destroyed shortly. It’s just good business to sell a house this week for full price that’s going to be destroyed with the city next week and be worth nothing! And clearly, if they “met house to house,” then not everybody sold their homes.

For the record, I know a bunch of people who’ve sold their homes for the ministry, several more than once. I know of others who sold themselves into slavery so that they could bring the good news to those in slavery, and they died in slavery. Most of these folks haven’t had books written about them, so they’re not known as well. But then Jesus taught us to keep quiet about our generosity, yes?

We could go on.

It is NOT my intent to disparage the excellent start that the Church had, as reported in the book of Acts. That was glorious.

What we have now is substantially more glorious. And that, too, is what we were promised. (See Isaiah 9:7)


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The Cleaning Lady

The Cleaning Lady


I’d like to tell you the story of a friend of mine, whom I’ll call Chantelle.

Chantelle had just found a roommate and a nice apartment, and they were in the early stages of moving in, when she called me. “I’d like your help in praying over our apartment before we move in.” She and I had dealt with some things together before, and she understood that teamwork is valuable.

So we began to pray. We prayed over the kitchen, the dining room, the living room, and declared the destiny we heard Father speaking about for the rooms and their activity. During the prayer time, I slipped away, and tossed a large handful of Dove’s chocolates into her empty room, just so she’s find a nice surprise.

When we finished praying about the public rooms, we headed down the hallway, and we both felt something strange, an unhealthy, unclean presence back there, and we both felt it at the same point, right as the hallway turned the corner.

Cool! A teachable moment! So we discussed it, discussed what it felt like, and I proposed that we check the back rooms individually for more sense of it.

We checked her room first, and there was no sense of that particular darkness, but there were wrapped dark chocolates scattered on the floor. She laughed and picked up a couple of them, and we agreed that this room wasn’t the source for the sense of the unclean that we felt. She offered me a chocolate and we moved on.

We prayed over the bathroom, blessed it, and ruled it out as a source of darkness, and moved on, while she nibbled her chocolate.

The roommate’s room. As Chantelle opened her roommate’s door, we felt the unclean darkness inside. “Aha! I suspect we’ve found a clue!” The roommate wasn’t home, of course; she wasn’t a believer, and wouldn’t understand what we were doing. In fact, there was just a small stack of boxes in the middle of the room.

We discussed the situation. We both sensed that there was uncleanness on the walls, though they appeared a clean white to our eyes. Chantelle stepped into the room, spiritual senses wide open, looking to sense where the unclean stuff was coming from. The closet? Nope. The window? Nope? This place where the bed obviously went? Nope.

That left the boxes in the middle of the room. They were just moving boxes, and only two or three of them; they looked innocuous enough. She popped the last of the chocolate in her mouth and touched the top box. Bingo! This is where the darkness came from! As we talked about the source of the presence, she straightened out the foil that had wrapped her chocolate, and read the quote it contained: “You are exactly where you are supposed to be.” We laughed!

We didn’t get into the boxes; they weren’t our property, but we felt the need to address the darkness, particularly, the darkness clinging to the walls. So we prayed that it would be removed. Nothing happened. We commanded it to leave. Nothing. We prophesied blessing on the room and its future. Nada.

I had an idea. “Chantelle, why don’t you ask Father for the right weapon to remove the darkness?” She gave me a funny look, but we’d done stranger things than this together. She prayed, and I could see from the look on her face that she’d seen Him give her something.

“What is it? What did he give you?” She scowled. “A washrag.” We laughed some more.

But she began to wield the washrag that she saw in the Spirit against the darkness. In reality, she began to wash the walls with it, and it was the first time that we saw the darkness give way, though it was a fight.

After a few minutes, we recognized that this was going to take all night, and I couldn’t help her, as I was still standing in the hallway (out of respect for someone else’s room).

Another thought presented itself. “I wonder if that washrag is for you to wield, or if it’s for someone else?” We prayed. “An angel is to wield it.” “OK. Why don’t you invite that angel in?” She did, and she laughed. “What do you see?” “A cleaning lady!” We laughed some more.

So Chantelle handed the washrag to the cleaning lady angel, and invited her to wield the weapon. Immediately, she began washing the walls, and by the time Chantelle had reached the door to the room, the first wall was halfway clean; we could both feel the darkness lifting. That was better! We blessed the cleaning lady, and invited her to stay. It seemed to us that her assignment was the back of the apartment, particularly the hallway and the bedrooms.

We felt the freedom to invite a couple other angles to the house. A big armed one was stationed outside the downstairs entrance, and Chantelle assigned another, whom she named Cheese Grater Guy, to the front door, to remove any “Klingons” from guests to the home.

When we left, we looked back at the bedroom windows, and we both discerned what appeared to be a cleaning lady waving happily to us from the roommate’s window. We laughed and waved back.

The really fun part of the story came weeks later, when the roommate cautiously reported that she “could feel a presence” in the back hallway. Chantelle replied, “Yep, and she’s staying here! We’re not going to get rid of that one!”


And the cleaning lady likes cats. Both Chantelle and the roommate had pet cats, kittens, really, who loved to play with them. But from time to time, both women could see the cats in the hallway, playing with someone they couldn’t see with their natural eyes. 

Good Treasure, or Evil?

“A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” [Luke 6:45]

Reflecting on the repeated word “good.” (Principle: when the Book repeats something, it’s worth paying attention to!)

The word for “good” is ἀγαθός, and it “describes that which, being “good” in its character or constitution, is beneficial in its effect; it is used
(a) of things physical, e.g., a tree.
(b) in a moral sense, frequently of persons and things. God is essentially, absolutely and consummately “good. (Vine's Dictionary of New Testament Words)

This tells me something that I don’t actually want to know: what I say (and presumably what I write about on FB) reveals my heart. If I’m talking about things that are beneficial in their effect, if I am pointing out that which is good about things, then this verse declares that I am a “good man” and I have “good treasure” in my heart.

But if what I say (and presumably what I write about on FB) is talking about things that are faults, or problems, or failures, or complaints or even just drivel, then this verse declares that I have “evil treasure” in my heart.

Certainly, I wish to apply this to myself: I can judge my own heart by watching what I say. Are my words revealing good or evil in my heart?

But I probably need to take this a step further as well: who am I reading, who am I following. If they’re speaking things that comfort me or challenge me or cause me to dig deeper into God, if they’re declaring what is true, noble, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous or praiseworthy (see Philippians 4:8), then I can safely judge the fruit: this is “good treasure” coming from a good heart.

But if I’m listening to people or reports that are bringing fear, or outrage, or self-pity, or resentment, or entitlement, or powerlessness, or reports that are stirring worldly desires (“the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life,” 1 John 2:16), then I can – and must – judge that report as “evil treasure,” and recognize that it is coming from a motivation that has evil toward me in it, whether those speaking it mean for it to or not. (I’m not judging their heart; I’m judging their words.)

May I tell you a secret? That’s why I stopped watching the news. Father showed me this, and he called it my “devotional with the world.” I don’t hide from the news, but I get my news on my terms now, not on theirs.

I intend to judge fruit. I choose to be a fruit inspector. I choose to filter the fruit that others give me, to receive the good, and reject the evil.

Borrowing an Anointing in Rizal Park

There’s a principle in prophetic ministry: even people with no real prophetic gifts can prophesy when the Holy Spirit is present and manifesting that gift. The clearest example I can think of is King Saul, and it hit him twice: in 1 Samuel 10, and again in chapter 19. When he was around prophets, King Saul flopped on the ground and prophesied. “Therefore it became a proverb: “Is Saul also among the prophets?”

It appears that it happens with other gifts as well. I’m not really gifted as an evangelist, but let me tell you about one time that I was numbered among the evangelists. There’s no great lesson in this; it’s just a testimony.

Some years ago, I was part of a YWAM evangelistic outreach in Manila, the Philippines. If ever there was an organization with an evangelistic anointing, they would be included on that list.

Coming into this “Outreach,” I’d been praying for an anointing for whatever I was going to do. I was assigned to be one of the “street preaching” team, and occasionally part of the drama team. Everybody was on the personal evangelism team.

My friend Connie was there. Connie is an evangelist. She looks across the restaurant and you can hear the sobbing break out. (OK. That’s an exaggeration. A little bit.) She has flaming red hair, and she lives up to it.

One afternoon, we were sharing testimonies of what God had done, and Connie shared this story: she’d led a college student, we’ll call her Kim, to faith early in the outreach, and now, she was discipling her; they met every afternoon after Kim’s afternoon college classes.

The second day, Kim shows up an hour early: it turned out the college professor hadn’t shown up. Connie asks, “Does that happen often?” “Yeah, fairly often.” Connie’s eyes sparkled. “May I go with you to your class tomorrow?”

So Connie accompanies Kim to class, and sure enough, the professor doesn’t show up. And now Connie has a captive audience of 30 college students. She stands up, calls for their attention, and launches into the good news. As she was finishing, before she could ask “Who wants to believe in Jesus?” the professor comes in, sees someone else – a white woman! – speaking to her class. Of course she demands to know “What is going on here?”

Connie says, “Just a moment, please. I’m almost done,” and explains that they need to believe, but rather than praying with them, she instructs those who want to follow Jesus to speak to Kim and tell her.

The next day, Kim brought 28 other students with her to be discipled in the ways of Jesus.

I heard that story, and I’m thinking, “I wanna be successful, too!” so I ask God for effectiveness in evangelism.

The next day, we take an outreach team to Rizal Park, downtown. The team outreach was structured in four parts: three songs, one drama showing the gospel, a 3 minute “sermon” presenting the gospel, and Bam! Everybody splits up to share one-on-one with someone, hopefully leading them to faith.

I didn’t really know what I was doing. My attention was drawn to one old guy, in a group of old guys, seated on some planters. I asked his permission, and then shared the basic gospel story with him again. In those days, some of the people really wanted to please foreigners, so I explained the gospel, and then I outlined the costs of following Jesus. Twice. And he was old, so I had to speak up while I did it, so he could hear me. He kept looking down, as if the ground were more interesting than what I was saying.

When I couldn’t put it off any longer, I asked, “Would you like to follow Jesus? Would you like to give your life to Jesus?” And for the first time, he looked up, he locked his eyes on mine, and he said in a shaky, but strong voice, “Yes. Yes, I will follow Jesus.” 

I cleared my throat, and prepared to lead him in that great Evangelical theological pillar, the Sinner’s prayer, but before I could get started, the guy next to my guy looked at me. “Could I follow Jesus, too?” Oh! Oh, yes!

And then the next guy tugged at my sleeve, and pointed to the three guys with him. “We’d like to follow Jesus, too.” And then several more guys sitting on the next planter over, asked if they could as well.

I shared the gospel, quite hesitantly, actually, with an old guy that wasn’t interested. But rather than judge him myself, I kept going. That afternoon, I led nine men in the sinner’s prayer, and then introduced them to a local pastor who was traveling with us.

It’s my opinion that it worked because I was “under the influence” of a group that had a substantial evangelistic anointing. And because I was faithful to do what I really didn’t feel like doing.

When I returned home to the USA, I was, I confess, rather impressed with myself. I headed out onto the streets of my city one Saturday afternoon, fresh from successes like that one (and yeah, there were others).

And I “shared the gospel” with a whole bunch of people. Actually, I attempted to share the gospel, but they saw me coming, and dodged me before I could talk with them. I didn’t lead a single person to faith. Actually, I didn’t even have a serious conversation with even one person that whole day.

I’ve ministered under that anointing again since then. I joined the Full Gospel Businessmen in a booth at the regional fair, and watched God move powerfully. I joined with some gifted evangelists in the same city where I had failed, and watched God move semi-powerfully, but way better than I had done by myself.

Nowadays, I teach people, if you want to move in what I call “the juice,” then go be with someone who has what you want. If you can join them in ministry, then by all means do, but if you can only stand next to them, and learn from them.

For myself, it’s only worked when I’m with them. But when I’m with people who are evangelists, I can exercise that gift. And when I’m not, I’m embarrassing.